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Application
Fig.1. Factory of open cell Ni foam in Dalian China

Industry presents growing interest in exploitation of advantages provided by foam structure. Solid foam has outstanding low weight as a great part of its volume consists of gas while the rest is of solid material incorporating structural elements. They have high strength and loadability comparing to their small mass/relative density. Solid foams can be used as thermal and sound insulators and energy absorbers as well. Owing to wide variety of applications foreseen and to rising industrial demands research works of foams have got great importance recently. Foam structures of water-based compounds, polymers, ceramics and metals are produced too. Though water-based foams are most frequently used in food industry, they find their application even in firefighting of fires impossible or too expensive to extinguish by water. Polymer foams have widespread application fast everywhere be it food packaging, thermal insulation or sound absorption.
You can make foam of polyurethane, PVC or polyethylene as well. Ceramic foams have roles overwhelmingly in construction industry but can be used as filters and catalyst carriers too. With regard to industrial application the youngest member of foam group is the metal foam having his very first appearance in 1948 - made by B.Sosnick. Metal foam production was first realized about the early nineties last century. An example of aluminum foam application is for sound absorption of long tunnels – being more advantageous than plastic foam used before regarding its fire resistance property as well. Open cell nickel foams have important role by element production using their vast inner surface as catalyst carrier. The first such production plant is already operating in China established by Canadian/Brazilian owners with a capacity of 10Mm2/year.

Regarding their promising mechanical properties the aluminum foams may cause revolutional changes in car/vehicle industry. The breakthrough happened already in 2006: for a structural item of Audi Q7 car featured by energy absorption (see Fig.2.) Supplier had been awarded with an order of 100 000 pieces. Recently will be tested the application possibility of a structural part made of foam with energy and vibration absorption properties to model Ferrari Spider 430 (see Fig.3).

Fig.2. Metal foam part in Audi Q7 baggage space.
Credit: Aluminium foam potentials for the automotive and other industries, P.Schäffler, MetFoam2009 conference, Bratislava


Fig.3. Carcase of Ferrari Spider 430 with marked places of metal foam.
Credit: Aluminium foam potentials for the automotive and other industries, P.Schäffler, MetFoam2009 conference, Bratislava

Military and defence industry may be one of the most important application area of metal foams in the future. Exploiting their very advantageous energy absorption properties following from foam structure - advantageously can be prepared bullett-proof (blast and fragmentation proof) protecting covers for military vehicles including land, marine and air force ones. It is the metal foam that provides for energy distribution and absorption of those high speed objects centrally attacking small surfaces (see Fig.4).

Fig.4. Armour coats of military vehicles may be made of sandwichpanel containing metal foam layer(s) featuring energy absorption.

Foams of different types and application examples (not exhausting lists) :

Aquaeous foams

  • whipped cream
  • bread
  • ice cream
  • fire extinguisher foam
  • shaving foam
  • bubble bath
  • beer froth

Plastic foams

  • Nikecell (building insulation, packaging material)
  • polifoam (bathmat, beach mat)
  • washing-up sponge
  • bed foam mat
  • rubber sole

Ceramic foams

  • filters
  • catalyst carrier
  • Ytong construction block
  • foamed concrete

Metal foams

  • catalyst carriers (open cell)
  • accumulator plate (open cell Ni foam)
  • crane structure elements (closed cell Al foam)
  • car bumper (closed cell Al foam)
  • ailway buffer (closed cell Al foam)
  • biological implantation (open and closed cell Ti foam)
  • tunnel inner cover plates (closed cell Al foam)
  • conic nose of Ariane rocket (closed cell Al foam) )
  • defence and military industry (closed cell Al foam)
  • heat exchangers (open cell Al foam)